We first reported on patent trolls about a year ago in a report titled "Patent Trolls have the Smartphone Industry in a State of Emergency," which covered an important study from the Boston University School of Law. The study found that "patent trolls" or "non-practicing entities (NPEs) cost the U.S. software and hardware companies US$29 billion in 2011. In May Apple's CEO Tim Cook pushed the patent troll issue with President Obama who has since called upon Congress to further assist US tech companies against this threat. Yesterday, one of the first blows against the patent troll industry were delivered.
Taiwan's MemSmart Semiconductor Corp. has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Apple. The patent infringement lawsuit concerns the iPhone's use of their suspension microstructure technology.
On June 14 the US Patent and Trademark Office reversed their initial decision on Apple's "bounce back" patent which was a key patent in Apple's patent infringement case against Samsung. Today, a Tokyo district court ruled that Samsung infringed on Apple's "bounce-back" patent used in displaying e-mails and documents on phones and tablet computers.
Late last year Samsung fans and their respective fan sites went ballistic claiming that Apple's key patents found in their case against Samsung were found to be invalid. Many in the mainstream press ate it all up and it made headlines everywhere. Even many Apple fans began to shout that patents seemed to be worthless. At that point Patently Apple decided to step in with a report titled Cries of Apple's Patents Being Found Invalid a Nice Pipe Dream." We provided historical statistics proving that reversals of patents deemed invalid were common. Today, the US Patent and Trademark Office announced their official reversal, with Apple's patents being valid. Samsung may have maneuvered the press to give them a momentary victory over Apple, but in the end, Samsung is the loser, plain and simple, and the patent system has validated Apple's Intellectual Property.
At the conclusion of many of our legal related reports we make note that "A 2011 study showed that Patent Trolls cost tech companies $29 Billion and a 2012 study made the case that patent trolling was out of control." We do this because Apple is one of the top targets of these patent trolls. While I'm sure that there are some in the patent troll community that are legitimate IP defenders for the smaller developer taking on the larger corporations, studies have confirmed that there's another distinct class of patent trolls that are just in it for the money, period. They hunt down and pay for patents for one purpose alone: to hold companies like Apple ransom. These specialized law and IP firms have no intention of ever making a product; it's just about how much they can rake in with licensing fees by arguing the tiniest of "patent claim" to death. Companies like Apple can't counter sue because these companies make nothing. So the law is slanted in the patent trolls favor. Tech companies have complained for years about the growing menace that these patent trolls are causing their businesses and it now appears that President Obama is going to push for yet tougher legislation in an effort to slow down patent trolling that is now out of control in the US.
Smartflash has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Apple. The patent infringement lawsuit basically concerns Apple's iTunes Store, the App Store, Apple TV, iOS and much more. A number of gaming developers are a part of this suit for using Apple's iTunes Store to sell their wares. Smartflash is claiming that Apple has allegedly infringed on their six standing patents which all relate to "Data Storage and Access Systems."
It's being reported this afternoon that Apple has agreed to pay $53 million to resolve a consumer class-action lawsuit alleging the company relied on faulty indicators showing that iPhones and iPods were exposed to water to deny customers' warranty claims. One of Apple's patents covering the indicator technology was just approved earlier this month.
Apple informed the court last week that it intended to amend its infringement contentions in the second California patent litigation with Samsung to target the latest Galaxy S4. Yesterday, Apple followed through on their intentions and filed its motion against Samsung Electronics (Korea), Samsung Electronics (America) and Samsung Telecommunications America with the court in San Jose California. Apple's motion lists a series of specific patents allegedly infringed by Samsung's S4 as well as two patents allegedly infringed by Google's software known as "Google Now." Apple's document makes mention that they scoured through Samsung's source code and found "proof of infringement."
The National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan sued Apple in 2012 claiming that Siri used on iDevices allegedly infringed on their patents. The University has now filed a second patent infringement lawsuit against Apple claiming that all of Apple's products using block-orientated motion compensation video compression as embodied in the ITU-T H.264 Standard, including Apple FaceTime and Apple QuickTime, allegedly infringes on their 2009 patent.
Three brothers living in Texas who own a 2002 patent titled "Communication and proximity Authorization Systems," are suing Apple for patent infringement. According to their document filed with the court, Apple's AirPort and AirPort Extreme products infringe on their intellectual property. If Apple is found guilty, the plaintiffs are seeking a "reasonable" royalty from Apple.
Google is on a legal losing streak of late. On Friday a German court denied Google's Motorola an injunction against Microsoft over a push notification patent that is most likely invalid. Today the United States International Trade Commission threw out the last patent-in-suit (PDF) remaining in the investigation of Motorola's October 2010 complaint against Apple. U.S. Patent No. 6,246,862 on a "sensor controlled user interface for portable communication device" was found invalid. The patent relates to the feature that a touch screen ignores touches if the user is on a phone call and holds the device close to his head. Google wanted the ITC to ban the importation of any iPhones with that feature into the U.S. market.
An unknown Company by the name of Wyncomm has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Apple. A simple Google search reveals nothing about this company which is usually a sign that the company is a patent troll or from their perspective, an "IP Defender." What makes this case somewhat interesting is that Wyncomm has recently acquired an AT&T patent for the sole purpose of suing Apple and likely others in the future. Considering that AT&T is a major Apple iPhone partner, how did an AT&T patent of this nature just happen to fall into the hands of this troll who is now suing Apple by claiming that the iPhone infringes upon their patent? I don't know about you, but I think that there's something awfully wrong with this scenario. With that said, the case moves on.